Stats: Fewer Americans Traveling This Thanksgiving Amid Pandemic

Photo by rusm/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Thanksgiving will be on the lighter side when it comes to the typical number of travelers on the roads and at airports. According to AAA Travel, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting Americans’ decisions to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates at least a 10 percent drop in travel—representing the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. 

Based on mid-October forecast models, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving (a drop from 55 million in 2019); however, rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers will be even lower.

In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.

Road Trips Top Holiday Travel Plans

Those who decide to travel are likely to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away, making road trips the dominant form of travel this Thanksgiving. Travel by automobile is projected to fall 4.3 percent, to 47.8 million travelers and account for 95 percent of all holiday travel. 

Tip: AAA says to minimize the number of stops along the way, pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit. 

Good to know: Those who hit the road for Thanksgiving will find cheaper gas prices, according to AAA. On average, gas prices nationally are nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year, with October averages the lowest in more than 15 years. 

Fewer Travelers to Fly and Use Other Modes of Travel

AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by nearly half of prior years—to 2.4 million travelers. This would be the largest one-year decrease on record. For these travelers, AAA notes holiday airfares are the lowest in three years. If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes. 

Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76 percent, to 353,000 travelers, as cruise ships remain docked and more travelers opt for car trips instead of taking buses or trains.

Related Stories

Stats: Mexico Tops International Spots for Thanksgiving Travel

Second Wave of COVID-19 Threatening European Tourism Recovery

Stats: Half of Americans Plan to Travel During the Holidays

AAA Says Americans Are Cautiously Optimistic About Travel